Technology can be a huge boundary for many teams—and not just because Mike forgot to attach the document to the email ...again. Knowledge gaps are one thing, but differing attitudes towards technology, if left unaddressed, can be a silent source of destruction within a team. We asked Common Purpose alumni: what should you consider if you have to lead across technological boundaries? Here are five of our favourites:
This is a big one. Attitudes to social media are the source of no end of problems in many organizations.
If you’re the social media-savvy one in your team, it can be frustrating to work with other people who are sceptical. Vice versa, there can be nothing more disquieting than constantly being pressured to ‘get involved’ when you just don’t want to.
At least part of the problem is the way the two camps perceive each other. It’s easy to view social media usage as a competency gap, but often, this doesn’t tell the whole story. Your attitude towards social media likely has more to do with your attitude towards privacy in general. Private people are more likely to see using social media for work as an invasion of their personal space—especially if they’re the type of person who brings more of a professional persona to office and cringes at the idea of blurring the lines.
If social media is proving a problem, take positive action. Pick a platform everyone feels comfortable using (no-one should have a problem with the more corporate-focussed LinkedIn); set goals for the team as a whole; and get them to coach each other. The frequent users will perhaps start to understand their colleague’s reluctance and the stragglers will begin to see how they could make social media work for themselves.
In theory, project management software is a no-brainer - a centrally held workflow which everyone can feed into and draw upon. But sometimes when teams take up these digital tools it can cause fractures. And again, like social media, the problem goes beyond just who has the skills to work it.
For some people, their to-do-list is sanctuary; a crossed-off task using a good biro is nothing short of catharsis. So when you say: “you will be organizing your time with this widget, from now on”, it can feel like an affront to their own personal autonomy. On the other hand; don’t underestimate just how much Molly will silently seethe because her urgent request got lost in Jim’s post-it note eco-system.
If you think PM software is the answer, get your team to choose the software themselves and get them to determine how they will use it. This will help create buy-in. For many, it will be just as much about how software looks and feels, more than its functionality.
And communicate. Don’t let software replace conversations and common courtesy. We use technology to make life easier - not so we don’t have to talk to each other.
If you’re a techie, you learn to speak the lingo: CSS-this and dynamic tessellation-that. But what if you work with people that aren’t? Tech-speak (...or finance-speak, or marketing-speak or any-speak for that matter) can be baffling to the uninducted.
This is a tricky question and inevitably there’s no easy answer. Most multi-national football teams make a point of having only one language spoken in the dressing room and there might be something in that.
Wherever you find the balance, often the key is making sure both sides of the language barrier realize they have a responsibility to cross it, and to assist each other in crossing it. Be patient; if someone gets scoffed at for mixing up their http from their HTML, they will be unlikely to make the effort again.
I have a friend who serves on a board of governors at a school. One of her fellow governors doesn’t have an email address.
You did read that correctly.
He insists on all documents being posted out to him, and he responds with his feedback in the same snail-mailish way. At worst, he slows down the whole process; at best he’s just an unheard voice: vainly annotating documents that are always 3-5 working days out of date.
It’s okay to not be a tech-whizz, but at the same time, you do have to change with the world around you. This governor's refusal to make even the most basic of concessions, if nothing else, shows a lack of empathy for his peers, the school and its pupils.
Take people’s concerns seriously when they say that technology is a struggle, but do question them when their reluctance becomes a barrier to creating a better product, or delivering a better service.
For many industries, the data revolution is changing everything; from the way we measure performance to the way we generate business. But within a team, data can cause boundaries. Who will interpret the data? Who will misinterpret the data? Who trusts the data completely? Who would still rather rely on instinct and intuition?
Listen acutely whenever data enters the conversation. Who feels overly vindicated? Who drops away? Who is talking at cross purposes? As a leader, you have to bring people around to a common vision. And data can strengthen the vision but it’s not the end in itself. Data might be king but don’t let it end conversations if you think they need to continue.